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Martin Luther King Jr. memorial to be dedicated in Laurel Memorial Garden

A new monument to Martin Luther King Jr. is now in Laurel Memorial Gareden.
A new monument to Martin Luther King Jr. is now in Laurel Memorial Gareden. (Courtesy photo/city of Laurel)

A granite “Book of Life” honoring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. is the latest addition to grace the Laurel Memorial Garden.

The monument will be dedicated with a wreath laying at 4 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 18, at the memorial garden, which is adjacent to the Laurel Municipal Center at 8103 Sandy Spring Road.

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It's one sturdy monument.

“This is jet black granite. It came from India. The granite is so hard that if you tap it with a hammer, it sounds like steel,” said designer and builder Walter Tegeler. “It’s a forever monument.”

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The installation, designed to look like an open-book, displays laser-etched pictures and quotes from the civil rights leader who was assassinated in 1968.

The MLK monument and the surrounding memorial garden are among the proudest achievements of retired city administrator Martin Flemion, who served the city for 42 years.

Flemion, working with a committee and his secretary, Lena Grant, launched the city's memorial garden project with the installation in 2016 of a 9/11 memorial that contains a piece of steel from the destroyed twin towers.

Since then, the city has also installed memorials to honor American military veterans who gave their lives, for the victims of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 and the destruction of the Berlin Wall. A special memorial at the site honors city employee Marcus Colbert, who was killed in a tragic accident two years ago.

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The King monument comes from the workshop of Tegeler, whose Tegeler Monument Co. has been a Baltimore institution for more than a century. Tegeler has a long-standing history as memorial-maker to Laurel and he said that the King monument was a collaborative effort that culminated in his own ultimate design.

“I listen to what someone’s trying to tell me, the images in their mind, and then I start designing it,” he said. As to the images etched on the granite, he added, “I gathered some and they gathered some and we put it all together."

Flemion said the idea for the memorial garden began when the city learned that pieces of the 9/11 wreckage from New York were being made available for public memorials by the New Jersey Port Authority. One condition was that it be displayed in a location accessible to the public.

Meanwhile, the American Legion in Laurel was looking to erect a monument to American war dead and had collected $20,000 to donate to the project.

"We decided to combine our efforts," Flemion said and the seed of the memorial garden were planted.

The former city administrator said the garden has proved itself an inviting place.

“On weekends there’s quite a bit of foot traffic. And people from the office park nearby come out in better weather to have their lunch. It is definitely used by the public.”

Mayor Craig Moe called the memorial garden “an opportunity for people to reflect.”

The mayor said the city has wanted to honor King in some way for a decade. The city had an annual "Sing for King" event that was popular, he noted.

Moe estimated the city has spent nearly $40,000 on the memorial garden, which includes funds from the American Legion donation, other private donations and money from the city's general fund and capital budgets.

Moe gave major credit to Flemion.

“I said, ‘Why don’t we do something for Martin Luther King Day?’ Marty ran with it. Before his retirement he wanted to make sure it got done,” Moe said.

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